Jan 18, 2006

By censoring the Web, Iran hopes to silence its critics

Time reports that authorities have blocked access to RegimeChangeIran, the Iranian Feminist Tribune and even Bloomingdale's.
The government's aggressive policing of the Internet reflects how decisively Ahmadinejad has stemmed momentum toward democratic reform. Hard-liners in Iran's judiciary first sought to seal off the Internet in 2004 by arresting Web technicians and bloggers. Since 2004, authorities have rounded up at least 20 writers for posting subversive material online, handing them jail terms ranging from a few days to 14 years. Last June, following Ahmadinejad's surprise election, the government launched a fresh onslaught, this time against the websites and blogs themselves. Using keyword filters and censorship software pirated from U.S. firms, the government blocked thousands of websites containing news, political content and satire. It even blocked the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). The crude filters make it impossible to look up suggestive words such as women, so a Google search on women's pregnancy produces an ACCESS DENIED screen. "The end result is a marginalization of women and women's issues," says activist Sussan Tahmasebi.

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